26 September 2023

The police’s 5 questions to expose violence risk

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Responses to just five questions would significantly improve a police officer’s ability to identify domestic violence victims at high-risk of repeat victimisation, according to a report from the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR).

Explaining its finding, BOCSAR said past research had shown that the NSW Police Force’s 30-question Domestic Violence Safety Assessment Tool was a poor predictor of repeat intimate partner violence, “performing little better than chance”.

“A (risk assessment) tool with poor accuracy would mean that some victims at high risk could be insufficiently supported, compromising their safety,” BOCSAR said.

“It could also cause the misallocation of already-scarce DFV (domestic and family violence) support resources where they are less needed,” it said.

The Bureau said its Report, Improving police risk assessment of intimate partner violence, identified a small set of variables that could be used to more accurately predict future intimate partner violence.

It said the five best performing indicators were the victim’s history of domestic violence reports; the perpetrator’s history of domestic violence convictions; pregnancy and new birth; victim’s self-perception of risk; and the perpetrator’s misuse of alcohol or drugs.

Executive Director of BOCSAR, Jackie Fitzgerald said accurate risk assessment by police was essential to prioritise domestic violence services for victims who were most in need.

“Our study proposes a brief risk assessment instrument which is both easy to implement and which significantly outperforms the current tool,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

“Adopting such a tool could help to reduce domestic violence by connecting more high-risk victims with appropriate services,” she said.

BOCSAR’s 27-page Report can be accessed at this PS News link.

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